Emerald Waterways in Review

Emerald Waterways is one of the newest lines in the European river cruise market.  About a year ago, our own John Lane cruised with Emerald from Budapest to Nuremberg.  Read more below:

Cruise Escapes:  Since this was not your first river cruise, what was the first Emerald distinction you noticed once you boarded?

John:  It was very open and airy.  Lots of glass floor to ceiling windows bring the outdoors in.Emerald Waterways dining room

CE:  What about accommodations; how did your cabin compare to your other river cruises?

John:  The cabin was  also open and airy with a wall to wall and floor to ceiling window that lowered by a push of a button.  It was very well designed with the most storage space in any cabin that I have seen.  The bathroom was smaller but adequate with a sliding door.  Cabin service was good but you would have to ask for extra toiletries and no tissues were in the cabin which bothered me.

CE:  So would you rate your cabin as about the same, as your previous (with AMA and Tauck), better, or less impressive?

Emerald Waterways cabinJohn:  I would say I was more impressed with my wall of glass (window) that brought the Danube into my cabin.  I boarded in Budapest and we were docked directly across from the Parliament building and I had the most magnificent view of it.  At night it took on a completely different feeling.  I just sat their and savored the view.  It was wonderful.

CE:  That sounds great!  Now, how about the food onboard; what would you have to say about dining on Emerald?

John:  Dining was open seating breakfast, lunch and dinner like all river cruise lines.  Breakfast and lunch were buffet only.  I would have preferred at lunch to have had an option to order from a menu a lighter lunch instead of the standard luncheon buffet.   Made to order options were not available as they stuck to the menu.  The wine and beer flowed at both lunch and dinner.

CE:  On your Danube itinerary, did you have a favorite port, or what were the most memorable highlights for you?

Emerald Waterways Christmas MarketsJohn:   I was on a Christmas Markets Cruise and it was quite magical. I highly suggest a Christmas Market cruise!   We were fortunate to have beautiful warm weather in December.  The itinerary was full of wonderful ports:  we had an extensive tour of Budapest, a home visit in Bratislava (a Emerald exclusive) along with an evening concert in a monastery,  toured the beautiful Melk Abbey which is a must see, Vienna and a side trip to Salzburg captured the beauty of the Austrian countryside.

CE:  So Emerald sounds like a good choice for river cruises; are there any special offers coming up?

John:   Yes!  Emerald just notified us of a really attractive offer for 2017 sailings with FREE AIRFARE from DFW & most major U.S. cities!  There is a flyer below, but for full details and rates give us a call soon; this won’t last long!

click image to enlarge:

Emerald Waterways fly free offer

A Bed With A View

by Don McCann

Avalon Waterways Panorama Suite

Avalon Waterways likes to make a big deal out of the way their “Panorama Suite” cabins have the layout designed with the bed facing the window (as almost ALL river lines have the bed facing sideways, toward the wall).  Well, I’ve sailed in one of these cabins, as well as on another river line, and I can tell you that they are correct – it IS a big deal!  With the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling sliding windows, these cabins give you a fantastic view from the bed, as well as from anywhere in the cabin.  European river cruising is all about the scenery and you’ll not miss anything with the Avalon accommodations.  In addition to the bed layout, the bathrooms are also extremely well designed and spacious (even more so than many ocean ships I’ve seen).

October is THE time to reserve your river cruise.  If you’d like more info on Avalon, click here and don’t miss this month’s outstanding special offer, found here

River Cruise French Balcony


by Don McCann

Most of our experienced ocean cruisers prefer to travel in a balcony cabin (and if you have ever experienced one, you certainly know why!)  So when booking a river cruise, many are unsure as to the meaning of a “french balcony” and how that will compare.  Well, to begin with, the entire river cruise experience is so different that the balcony preference is not nearly as relevant.  In Europe, all river ships are restricted in size due to the many locks which they will traverse during the cruise.  This limited size requires the ship designers rethink and rework the standard cruise accommodations.  So in order to allow the maximum amount of space for the cabin itself, the ‘balcony’ space is a challenge.  Therefore, many ships feature the french balcony, which is really floor to ceiling, sliding glass doors which open up for the fresh air (and to stick your head out), but you don’t actually step out onto a true balcony; many people like to think that this transforms the whole cabin into a balcony!  Also, the nature of river cruises is such that you are in port a great deal, so there is not as much time to sit out on the balcony as you might think.

To illustrate how different lines offer their accommodations, I’m enclosing a few photos:

Avalon Suite Ships cabin

Avalon Waterways Suite Class French Balcony


AMA Waterways split balcony

AMA Waterways French Balcony (left) and Outside Balcony (right)


Viking River Cruises balcony cabin

Viking River Cruises balcony cabin

As you can see, there are many options and we can help you sort them out.  Whichever you choose, river cruises are wonderful and we hope you’ll be taking yours soon!!

July is River Cruise Month!

by Don McCann

AMA generic

AMA Waterways, gliding through Europe

River Cruises, primarily in Europe, have exploded in popularity in recent years and there is a very good reason:  They are WONDERFUL!  As we have mentioned in past posts, they carry between 130 to 190 guests and dock in the heart of the city in many ports of call.  A very good industry friend told us “on an ocean cruise, you cruise TO a country; on a river cruise, you cruise THROUGH a country“.  Simple observation, but yet so true.

So we take July as River Cruise Month for several reasons….

  1. Now is the best time to book for next year, 2017; river cruises fill far in advance
  2. Most lines have advance booking discounts which will expire soon
  3. Crystal River Cruises has their inaugural cruise in July; an exciting, new product

This month we’ll be sending out examples of special offers for River Cruises, but we’ll also be sending out some photos and observations on our own past River Cruises.  Watch for more posts and remember to THINK RIVER CRUISES all month long!!!

River Deal?

Emerald Waterways Rhine Gorge

Emerald Waterways on the Rhine Gorge

by Don McCann

European river cruises continue to gain in popularity, but the limited availability is difficult for some experienced cruisers to comprehend. When we’re all used to taking ocean cruises with hundreds and many times thousands of passengers, a river cruise with about 150 people is quite different. The first difference of note is how soon they fill up! With so few cabins and such high demand, they are filling up farther and farther in advance. However, there are always some exceptions. Emerald Waterways is still relatively new and so they have some space for 2016 which is, not only available, but currently on sale! So if a river cruise is on your travel radar for this year AND if you’d like a great deal, then we suggest that you might want to consider Emerald – but act quickly.

For an example of Emerald Waterways reduced fares, click here, then call us for details.

River Cruise? Don’t Wait!

by Don McCann

European River Cruises have become quite popular in recent years, so that many people are now ‘aware‘ of river cruising and many people are interested in actually taking one, too.  However, we see time and again that potential river cruisers are surprised that their cruise of interest is either already filled, or has very limited availability.  Unlike ocean cruises which accommodate hundreds, or thousands of passengers, river cruises usually accommodate about 160 guests!  So if you do some simple math: high demand + low capacity…then it only stands to reason that planning in advance is essential.

So when to plan?  Well, September is actually one of the peak months for booking European cruises in the following year; in other words, NOW is a good time!  While this does not mean that you will not be able to find anything if you wait, it does mean you’d have to be flexible on date and accommodation type (the lowest deck is actually the least popular and what is usually “leftover”).  September is also when some of the last advance booking discounts expire.  One such example is with Avalon Waterways…..they currently have a discount on their 2016 cruises, plus they also have an airfare discount, as well.  If you’d like more info, just click here.

In our office we’ve all been on river cruises and we all love them (in fact our Alice Burkhart is onboard one right now!).  So if this is of interest to you, please contact us; we’d love to assist you in planning YOUR River Cruise!

Avalon generic aerial

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Sunday Afternoon in Les Andelys

by Don McCann

On our recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River, we had two ‘ports of call’ for our second day.  After a fantastic morning exploring the gardens and home of Monet in Giverny, we stopped in Les Andelys.  Perhaps my favorite part of this stop was just as we were gliding into position along the dock, there were locals strolling along the waterfront, enjoying their Sunday Afternoon and only passively interested in our arrival.

We had the choice of a walking tour through town, or ‘up the hill’ to Chateau Gaillard which was built by King Richard the Lionheart as a fortress in 1196.  We opted for the town tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed; nothing special, just a walk in the heart of another charming, quaint, little French jewel along the river.  However, I wish there had been enough time to also hike up to see the ruins up close.  My camera was able to zoom in pretty well though; it looks impressive.

After our tour, we walked around on own, first along the riverfront, then up the hill a ways, overlooking town.  With only about 150 passengers onboard a river cruise, once you disperse and explore on your own, you feel like you’ve blended into the local culture as a respectful visitor (rather than arriving with thousands at a port on an ocean cruise and being seen as invaders!)

Just a really enjoyable Sunday afternoon in Les Andelys!

Les Andelys arrival

arrival in Les Andelys

Les Andelys Chateau Gaillard from town

Chateau Gaillard as seen from town

Les Andelys Chateau Gaillard

Chateau Gaillard with a zoom lens!

Les Andelys church

Les Andelys church & town square

Les Andelys from hill

Les Andelys as seen from the hill

Les Andelys Tapestry II

Avalon Tapestry II docked in Les Andelys

Les Andelys timber architecture

Les Andelys examples of timber architecture

Monet, Monet

by Don McCann

In a previous post, I mentioned about my recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River to the Normandy Region of France.  On our itinerary, the first port of call was the quaint town of Vernon, the gateway to Monet’s home at Giverny.  I think most of us probably envision lily pads on a tranquil pond when we hear the name “Giverny” and that’s JUST what we were lucky enough to see that first morning!

Vernon, France on a quiet Sunday morning

Vernon on a quiet Sunday morning

Our tour departure time allowed us enough time to disembark and wonder the little town of Vernon before we boarded the motorcoach for the short drive to Giverny.  Being a Sunday morning, Vernon was noticeably quiet and made for a delightful early walk as we quickly explored what charming & historic sights the village had to offer.  As is true with so many European locations, the church was the dominant landmark and it was a very short distance from our ship.

As we arrived in Giverny, the anticipation grew with each phase of the tour.  First, a walk from the parking lot to the outer area of the village, then into the gardens themselves, next into Monet’s home, and finally a short walk to the far end of town to the cemetery for Monet’s grave.  In the gardens, on the path, over the famed arched bridge, it all seems as though the paintings of Monet have come to life and you are directly ‘in the thick of it’!  It is an area of impressive beauty and its preservation seems to have been successful to maintain an authentic “Monet experience”.  I could say more, but the photos say it best, take a look…

Giverny, France lily pads

Giverny lily pads

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France area map

Giverny area map

Giverny, France gardens

Giverny, France gardens

Monet home in Giverny, France

Monet home in Giverny

Monet's bedroom at Giverny , France

Monet’s bedroom at Giverny

Monet's grave in Giverny, France

Monet’s grave in Giverny

for more on Avalon Waterways, click here

It Was Only a Matter of Time


by Don McCann

With all of the growing popularity of European river cruises, it’s not too surprising that one of the major ‘ocean’ cruise lines has decided to launch their own river cruise division. Recently, Crystal Cruises announced that they will begin river cruises within Europe in 2017. At the time, they released virtually no details, but earlier this week they announced some date information and even showed us a couple of renderings!

Crystal Cruises European River CruiseCrystal Cruises will begin European river cruises in March, 2017 and reservations will open in December of this year, in 2015. That far in advance, you might ask? Yes! With the demand for river cruises and the limited number of cabins onboard, they sell much further in advance than many ocean cruises.

The river vessels from Crystal will each feature standard ‘suites’ at 250 square feet,Crystal Cruises river cruise suite as well as two 500 square feet penthouse suites. Accommodations will have walk-in closets, king-size beds and the bathrooms will have double vanities. As with their ocean ships, the river ships will include their signature Palm Court, which will have a glass roof & dance floor and there will be a fitness center and spa. The ships will carry only 140 guests.

The other lines in the luxury arena of European river cruises (Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic) will surely be interested to see how Crystal will create their own style of luxury river cruises and we’ll all be interested to see at what price point, as well. Stay tuned for more info!

River Cruise Month

European River Cruise photo

Idyllic European River Photo – taken by Bill Edwards

by Don McCann

More river cruises are booked in July than in any other month of the year and most of those bookings are for sailings far into the future.  “So what is it about river cruises anyway?” you might be asking.  One of the best features of river cruising is the very issue which begs advance bookings.  You see most river vessels only hold from 130 to 190 guests, so it makes for a wonderful ambiance onboard, but makes inventory scarce unless you plan AHEAD!

So since now is the time many are thinking (or should be thinking) of river cruise reservations for next year, we thought we’d remind you that we have a separate site exclusively for river cruises.  Take a look and contact us with any questions and/or your preferred dates for a reservation……….RiverCruiseEscapes.com .

Tauck River Cruise in Southern France

Tauck River Cruise in Southern France, photo by John Lane

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